Study found that mild stress can be as damaging as severe ones. Learn to nip stress in the bud before it leaves lasting harm.
Feeling stressed? Don’t brush it aside even though it may feel like a mild one.
A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health revealed that even mild stress can have potentially long term negative health impacts.
After tracking some 17,000 working adults in Sweden for about six years, researchers found that participants who reported higher levels of stress at the beginning of the study were linked to an increased chances of obtaining disability benefits later in life.
However, what is more surprising is that even those with mild stress were up to seventy percent more likely to receive long term disability benefits, after discounting other factors that could influence the results, such as lifestyle and alcohol intake.
While this does not mean you should pop psychotic drugs at the onset of the slightest psychological distress, the study does highlight the need to take those episodes of mild stress more seriously.
So the next time you feel one coming when you are at home or in the office, try one of the quick relaxation techniques below to tame your tension.
- Dance to shake off stress. Love to dance but no time to hit the clubs? Let your “happy feet” out and dance there and then to your favorite music.
- Hold the hands of a loved one. In one study, healthy married couples that regularly held hands, massaged each other, and cuddled for 30 minutes, at least four times a week, had lower levels of stress enzymes and increased production of feel-good hormones.
- Get pet therapy. If you do not have a partner, you can also get similar ‘warm touch’ effect by giving your pet gentle long strokes. Not only will this help to reduce your stress level, your pet will also enjoy the affectionate attention it is getting.
- Ring up a buddy. Social media may be all the rage now, but calling a buddy to talk over your problems is still a great way to blow off some steam. But refrain from dumping your emotional wastes on your friend unless you want to be labeled as a toxic friend.
- Smell your way to blissfulness. Put a few drops of lavender or lemon essential oil on a hanky or tissue paper, hold it close to (but not touch) your nose and breathe in deeply for a couple of minutes. The scents have been found to make one feels calmer and cut stress.
- Use heat treatment. Stress can not only make one mentally tense, but also physically. Use one of these anti-stress neck pillows which you can heat up in a microwave oven to relax your neck and shoulders. Some also contain dried herbs or flowers that release their stress-lowering scent upon heating.
- Sing your feelings. If you are home alone, crank up your favorite music and sing at the top of your lungs. Don’t worry if you cannot really hit the right notes, the key is to loosen those highly-strung nerves.
- Turn into a corpse. Corpse pose, also known as savasana, is a yoga pose often used to begin and conclude a yoga session. To start, lie on your back and spread your legs at about 45-degree angle. Rest your hands naturally by your sides with palms facing up. Breathe naturally and deeply as you relax your whole body part-by-part from head to toe. Stay in this posture for a few minutes.
- Meditate on your breaths. Meditation is not a privilege reserved only for the spiritually-inclined. Anyone can learn to meditate and use this ancient practice to relax and increase their focus power. If you like to get started, here are some simple instructions on how to mediate.
- Get herbal support. Some herbs such as ginseng and ashwagandha contain anti-stress compounds that can help to increase your resistance to stress and relieve physical and mental fatigue.
- Call Mum. A study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests that hearing mom’s voice can calm frayed nerves by triggering the release of oxytocin, a powerful stress-quelling hormone. And of course, the big assumption is you have a healthy relationship with your mother.
- Connect with the divine. Leave your worldly worries behind by forming a gyan mudra with your hands. Practitioners believe that this sign helps to clear the mind and connect one with the cosmos. To use this mudra, simply touch the tips of the thumb and the index finger together and leave the rest relaxed.
- Nip worries in the bud. Don’t give worries any chance to fester and grow into something larger than what they really are. Pin them down in writing whenever one comes to mind. By putting them in writing also allows you to decide whether you should act on your worries, or throw them out of your mind altogether.
- Counter stress with gratitude. Stress is so capable of narrowing our perspectives that it is easy to lose touch with our blessings and the things we have accomplished. Give yourself a gratitude check each morning by writing the things that you are grateful for, even for things as mundane as a cloudless blue sky.
- Take a cold and hot shower. Cold water will give you a rude jolt out of your comatose state, while the hot water that follows will help you to relax and unwind.
- Tap for better brain. When under stress, our blood tends to thicken and flow slower. Not a good thing especially when you have a project to rush. To promote blood circulation to the brain, use the tips of your fingers to tap on your scalp for two minutes.
- Be early. Pre-empt last minute mad rush and dreadful Murphy’s law manifestations by arriving fifteen minutes early for business appointments and meetings, especially if you are going to be the one giving the presentation.
- Surround yourself with nature. No time for nature? Then, bring nature to your office. Put some low-maintenance indoor plants, like lucky bamboo and ferns, and place an attractive indoor water fountain on your desk. The lush green will brighten up an otherwise lifeless office space, while the sight and sound of flowing water provides a relaxing distraction from the computer.
- Treat your eyes to a mini spa. Soothe your tired computer eyes by rubbing your palms together for 30 seconds and cup them over your closed eyes for a full minute. If your eyes need extra tender loving care, here are more eye care tips.
- Implement an office stretching routine. Prolonged sitting is bad for your heart according to some studies, and regular stretching can help to get you out of a fixed position and get those blood flowing. Need some ideas? Use this Youtube video as a template to design your own stretching moves.
- Take forty winks. A fifteen-minute nap during permitted breaks can boost alertness and refresh your mind. If you find slumping over the desk uncomfortable, you can either take a nap in your car (with the engine off, of course), or rest in a remote corner of your office building. Just be sure to set an alarm with your mobile to wake yourself up in time!
- Get a discreet leg massage as you work. Kick off your shoes and rest your soles over a foot roller which comes with cylinders covered by rubber studs. Those little fingers will give your legs a stress-relieving massage as you work furiously on yesterday’s project.
- Boost your energies with affirmation cards. When you are mentally exhausted, ‘borrowing’ energies from archetypical object or motivational words can replenish the mind with fresh fuels. Affirmation card decks come with beautiful images, often of popular archetypes, and matching words that you can meditate on. Choose a card from your favorite deck and focus on the image for three minutes. Imagine drawing the qualities you desire from the card. Tap on this imagery at work whenever you need that extra mental boost.
- Melt stress with relaxing music. Music can help to stimulate as well as relax the mind. Listen to fast-paced music used in thriller movies and your pulse will match it in no time. Likewise, play some relaxing music in the background and feel your heart beat and breathing sync to the nonchalant pace automatically. Don’t know what to play? Here are some relaxation music to add to your playlist.
- Clear that desktop clutter. Nothing drains energies like mountains of unfinished paperwork. And clearing piles of papers that have long exceeded their usefulness can actually make you less anxious and give you a sense of accomplishment. Note: If your office clutter needs mammoth efforts to keep in control, start by clearing one pile one at a time.
- Empty your inbox. Having 120 unread emails in the inbox can be stress inducing. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, proposes that for every email that comes in, ask whether it is something you can act on in two minutes or less (like replying with a “Noted. Thanks!”), delegate (hit forward!), or defer (file under mail folders like @CallsToMake, @Boss and @ProjectX for later actions). If you have not read this book yet, put it in your wishlist right away. You will learn a slew of useful office productivity tricks to help keep information overload at bay.
- Have a roaring good laugh. Visit Peanuts, Sherman’s Lagoon, Dilbert, or your favorite comic websites to tickle your funny bones and of course, relax!
- Contemplate on photos of your family, partner or a favorite trip. Reminding yourself why you are doing all these work can renew your motivation and mental strength. It also gives you a temporary reprieve from the problems you may be facing.
- Honor break times. You know your company have permitted breaks, but how often do you actually use them besides the one-hour lunch break? Taking a break is not skiving, it is to rest the body and mind so that you can work better and smarter.
- Swap out fluorescent and white LED lights. If this study is anything to go by, it may be a good idea to avoid fluorescent-based and white LED lights which the study author suggests long exposure to such lighting may cause hormonal stress response and lead to cardiovascular diseases and hormone-dependent cancers.